Decor Tip: The Buffet Table

Last week I shared some information on tablescapes, and a kind reader pointed out the difficulty in having space for décor and food. They are absolutely correct – in order to maximized space for a gorgeous tablescape, the food must go elsewhere – buffet spreads to the rescue! 

Setting a proper buffet table was a skill taught in every home.  Times have changed, and now Google is the leading authority on entertaining dilemmas of all sorts. ;)  Careful procedures will ensure that not only is your buffet table beautiful, it is also functional and easy for your guests to navigate.  Here are a few tips:

Tip 1: Divide and Conquer

Control the crowd by breaking up your buffet into individual stations such as a separate area for appetizers, or giving desserts their own space.  (It’s also helpful to have separate beverage station.)  This breaks up the line of people into different areas, allowing people to move through more smoothly. As you set up your space, consider traffic flow to anticipate where people will jam together.  PRO TIP: Each of your stations should have the plates and flatware for the food being served at that station, and always extra napkins! You can also cut down on extra trips by having a few essentials on each of the dining tables.

Tip 2: Order of Operations

The placement of food on a professional buffet is never by chance. Always start with plates, then add in the hottest foods, then progressing through the warm ones and finally the cold trays.  Make sure you have chafing dishes and ample ice to keep everything at the optimal temperature, and serving utensils for each dish (if your buffet is double sided, have a serving utensil for each side).  You’ll often see buffets with the napkins and flatware next to the plates at the beginning; putting them at the end gives your guests less to juggle.  PRO TIP: Always leave a bit of space at the front edge of your table so your guests can set their plates down if needed. 

Tip 3: Think in Layers

Just like building vignettes, having your dishes at different heights is not only visually pleasing, it ensures that your guests can see their options.  A tall floral arrangement or towering pillar candles will also draw the eye upward.  Risers, cake stands and footed trays are great for bringing in additional levels.  Be creative!  Depending on your theme, try books, vintage tins, or upside-down casserole dishes. PRO TIP: Candles always look amazing on a buffet table!  Look for unscented options to keep the food from smelling off.

BONUS TIP: In this era of food sensitivities and diet restrictions, your guests will appreciate small descriptive cards for each dish.  If your group is larger, having some vegetarian and gluten-free options is always thoughtful.  And don’t forget the extra napkins!       

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